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Wednesday, September 26, 2018 01:53:28 PM
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PM`s Delhi visit postponed

Pressure on signing Teesta Treaty

By Special Correspondent
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The planned visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India, which was scheduled to start on December 18, has been postponed due to "unavoidable circumstances".

A top level government official preferring to remain anonymous told The New Nation on Thursday night that it will take around one month to rearrange the trip. Probably, it may be fixed in mid-January.

Sheikh Hasina was supposed to discuss a wide range of bilateral issues with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi during the three-day visit and also planned to meet West Bengal's Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

It is not the first time. In 2009, Sheikh Hasina's scheduled visit to India [December 18 to 21] was deferred when the then Indian Premier Manmohan Singh decided to attend the high-level segment of the conference of climate change in Copenhagen.

In the incoming visits list of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, there was no schedule kept for the visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister.  

Although Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Indian Ministry of External Affairs did not elaborate the reason, there is widespread speculation that the trip was postponed due to 'confusion' over signing of the Teesta water sharing treaty -- an important issue for Bangladesh.

In fact, the Teesta water sharing treaty has posed high-importance for political future of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and for that reason Dhaka reportedly had persuaded Mamata Banarjee to withdraw her objection on equitable Teesta water sharing.

Meanwhile, the Indian media have reported that West Bengal's Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will not support the deal, though the Modi administration is keen to sign it.

It is to be noted that, the Teesta deal has been facing obstacles since September 2011 when Mamata Banerjee had refused to accompany the then Indian premier Manmohan Singh to Dhaka opposing the agreement. But strangely, she had sounded very much positive when she accompanied Modi to Dhaka in 2015.

A source close to the Foreign Office said that Dhaka had earlier wanted to trim down differences with Mamata Banerjee but now it is creating pressure on New Delhi to sign the treaty considering the issue 'an internal matter of India'.

Dhaka had also hoped that Narendra Modi government would take initiatives to solve bilateral issues, including the Teesta water sharing treaty, at the earliest, while Hasina    government has already extended its all-out cooperation to India.

Hasina's sideline meeting with Modi in Goa ahead of the BRICS-Bimstec Outreach Summit on October 16 also raised high hope that the Teesta pact would finally come through as "diplomatic quid-pro-quo", because Dhaka had stood beside India during the Uri terror attack.

Not only that, Dhaka also refused to join SAARC summit which was scheduled in Pakistan's capital Islamabad in November last. There are more things! Apart from land transit, Dhaka on Wednesday finalized a bundle of draft agreements, one of which would allow India to use Chittagong and Mongla ports.
Quoting government officials Indian media recently said: "There is an issue over Teesta River internally. The Sikkim government has a number of hydroelectric projects coming up on Teesta River. During rainfall, Sikkim releases water, which leads to flooding in north Bengal. During the dry season, there is water shortage in north Bengal due to their dams."

"West Bengal receives less than 40 per cent of the available utilizable surface water and reservoirs only meet 2.44 per cent of the total water demand for the agricultural sector. The delta, which once had excess water, now suffers from acute dearth of water during the dry period," the Indian media reported.

Sources said, Indian State Minister for External Affairs Ministry MJ Akbar will arrive Dhaka today [Friday] to attend the meeting of Global Forum on Migration and Development [GFMD] under the Bangladesh Chairmanship.

At that time, he is likely to meet PM Sheikh Hasina where Tessta water sharing along with other bilateral issues is likely to be discussed.

 Sheikh Hasina, however, earlier had expressed hope that the Teesta water sharing agreement would be inked with India in the near future.

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